Soccer goal safety still ignored five years after teen's death

10:36 AM, Feb 21, 2012   |    comments
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Five years ago this month, Corey Hawk died on a field near his Lake Wales home when an un-anchored soccer goal crushed him.

 

TAMPA BAY, Florida -- Hundreds of hazards line soccer fields in Tampa Bay simply because maintenance workers are too lazy to utilize safety devices, discovered the 10 News Investigators.

Despite warnings on every soccer goal that the contraptions -- often weighing up to 400 lbs. -- are to be anchored down at all times, virtually none of the nets surveyed by 10 News at fields in Pasco, Polk, Hillsborough, and Pinellas counties were properly secured.

Photo Gallery: Soccer goal nets pose safety hazards

Adding insult to injury, the nets can be secured with simple sand bags or goal anchors that come free with the purchase of the goal. 

Families of victims warn accidents could happen anywhere, anytime, and they're fed up nobody's listening to them.

Five years ago this month, Corey Hawk died on a field near his Lake Wales home when an un-anchored soccer goal crushed him. Corey, a week shy of his 19th birthday at the time, had jumped up to fix a dangling net. Corey's brother, Cody, was standing next to him.

"He ran after me and pushed me out of the way," Cody remembered. "I looked behind me and (the goal) fell on him."

Hawk's family spent more than four years battling the city over a wrongful death suit as well as for change. While the family finally settled with the city, change has been tougher to come by.

Hawk is one of 37 kids killed since 1979 by goals that topple over, despite warnings on every goal, every website, and every league's policy that they're to be anchored to the ground at all times.

Net manufacturers say most of the time nets aren't secured properly so maintenance crews can move them around easier.

Cutting grass is coming before safety.

But experts say just 22 lbs. of force or a strong gust of wind can be enough to send several hundred pounds of metal toppling over.

The Investigators took the concern of unanchored goals at Jack Mitchell Park in Pasco Co. to commissioners who initially deferred questions to their Parks & Rec director. He pointed the finger at the president of West Pasco Youth Soccer for anchoring guidelines, but the president declined our repeated interview requests.

Nevertheless, the league called a meeting with the county to address the concern and issued a statement that said, "West Pasco Youth Soccer is 100% committed to ensuring that safety always comes first. Our staff continuously reviews and updates when necessary policies which provide a safe and controlled environment to all our families and complies with FYSA's safety procedures."

The director of Parks and Recreation added that the county would supply sand bags while the league would be responsible for making them and placing them on the goals.

However, the nets indicate they are to be anchored to the ground at all times. Furthermore, two weeks after the county was alerted to the issue -- and a week after commissioners were approached about it -- most goals at Mitchell Park remained unanchored. 

Corey Hawk's family has spent five years working through depression and other struggles, pleading for change with little to show for it. Three states have adopted anchoring laws for goals in recent years, but Florida is not one of them.

"It makes me sick," said Corey's mother, Stacey McGill. "Because it was so preventable. It should be safe. We, as taxpayers, pay enough that the places our children go to play should be safe places to play."

Find 10 News Investigator Noah Pransky on Facebook or follow his updates on Twitter. Send your story tips to noah@wtsp.com.

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